July 18, 2011

New Zealand. We’re very close to a place called Arrowtown, a delightful gold rush village. Today is the first time I’ve actually visited this site. It has a beautiful aspect – views to the South through trees (the Japanese call this aspect Shirawage and it’s more highly valued than views without trees.) We’ve spent the morning getting to know the site, the earth, the local materials and crafts available. The local stone is Schist, which will certainly feature in the structure and will assist in creating “thermal mass”, a part of the building that can retain the sun’s heat during then day so it can be released again when the outside temperature cools at night. We will embrace local materials and crafts so the building is as much “of its place” as possible. We’ve been researching a geothermal heating system that can be done on this site. It will involve bore holes (about 10cm width) that go down over 100m – we’ll use this to heat the house (under floor) and the water (for all purposes including swimming pool). As the building can be viewed from above, the roof will probably be planted in “sedum” – it would not only look great but also increase the building’s thermal performance.

Tomorrow, Matt (one of the Associate Directors of Tobias Partners) and I plan to sit on site for a few hours and conceptualize the fundamentals of the design, mainly focused on the internal planning. We’re thinking that, between the view out to the South and the sun coming from behind (North), we’ll be able to propose an interesting building form with protected sunny courtyards nestled into the mountainside and carefully framed vistas overlooking the lake across to the snow-capped mountains. Somehow, I keep thinking of one of those incredibly evocative, classic Japanese woodblock prints.

Author: Nick tobias